About a year and a half ago, CNN correspondent Bruce Holmes came up with a list of 10 of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries. Purely by happenstance I visited two on his list within 13 days of each other; the second of the pair, the municipal cemetery in Punta Arenas, Chile, just 15 days before his story was published. That’s a coincidence that’s quite likely only entertaining to me, so I’ll only add that I can’t disagree with his conclusions.
While it doesn’t quite share the scale and pomposity of the better-known La Recoleta in Buenos Aires, the public cemetery in Punta Arenas, one of the most remote larger cities in the world, doesn’t lack the splendor of its Argentine counterpart.
Walking along its well cared for streets –many lined with exquisitely-manicured European cypresses– and under the peaceful gaze of angels standing atop the many chapels and mausolea, it’s easy to forget how isolated this part of the world actually is. The feel is definitely European, in reverence perhaps to those who chose to settle in one of the world’s most isolated areas. Located near the 53rd parallel south, Punta Arenas is the southernmost larger city in Chile and one of the southernmost on the planet. A walk through the four-hectare grounds provides an instructive lesson on where those who built this far flung city came from. Of central European immigrant stock myself, that was of particular interest to me.
There was a strong mix of German, Spanish and English surnames, but I was most drawn to the multitude of Croatian names that seemed to dominate the tombs and crypts. Immigrants from Croatia began arriving in the mid-nineteenth century; by some estimates upwards of 50% of the city’s population is of Croatian descent.
Founded in 1894, the impressive main gate, portico and walls were added in 1919 while most of the ornate chapels date back to the first three decades of the 20th century.
Most visitors who wind up in Punta Arenas include the cemetery on their list of stops. To come all this way and not pay a visit would wind up on the short list of any would-be visitor’s regrets. And probably make those angels focus their glaze elsewhere.
Located on Avenida Bulnes 29, about a 20 minute walk from the city’s main plaza.
Nineteen pics in all. Enjoy!
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